Okay, just under the wire: my February #1gam game!
If I Can Make It Here
the indie-musician-big-city-misery rpg
You decide to leave your hometown, Toronto, to see if you can make it as a musician in New York. But jobs, apartments, and the sheer emotional strain of the city have a way of complicating things…
The theme this month was “home”, and that got me thinking about the tensions I’ve felt between New York, where I’ve lived for the last four-plus years, and Toronto, my hometown.
In this game, New York is an extremely demanding place where it’s very hard to stay on top of everything that matters to you: art, friends, work, and mental health needs all demand your attention, and unless you make some lucky rolls looking for jobs and apartments, you’re either going to run out of money or collapse emotionally. When that happens, you get bounced back to Toronto, which refreshes you but erases all your progress (effectively restarting the game).
The mechanics here are inspired by some of my favourite recent not-fun games — Darkest Dungeon, Papers, Please, and Depression Quest. The fact that just being in NY is draining is a riff on Darkest Dungeon hitting heroes with stress just for being in a dungeon. The central happiness stat draws on both Darkest Dungeon and Depression Quest. I’d love to make it even more DQ-like in a fuller version: ideally, being sad would limit the number of actions you can take in a day. The game loop centred around a day/night cycle of mostly unrewarding uphill struggle reminds me of Papers, Please.
What I’ve posted is just a prototype, but in a fuller version I’d like Toronto to be more than just a spawn spot. I’d like you to be able to do most of the things you can in New York, with the numbers balancing out a little differently: it’s hard to get terribly famous as a musician there, but it’s much easier to lead a balanced life. I’d be interested to see whether players of that more developed game would choose to keep trying their luck in New York and keep going to pieces financially or emotionally, or whether they’d just settle for Toronto — where you can’t be as famous, but you can be happy.
Hopefully I’ll make that fuller version and find out! For now, enjoy… if that’s the word!